What you see on the flying suit leg patch is the standard aircrew survival knife, primarily for cutting parachute rigging lines but also anything else a knife is useful for, the handle also has a very useful notch in it perfect for opening beer bottles! The canopy on a Canberra is considerably thicker than a Vampire as it needs to support a larger area of pressure differential so a knife is totally out of the question. It's hard enough to break with an axe as it bounces off when you hit it so the trick is to use the escape axe at the edge of the canopy where it meets the fuselage metalwork. This cutting area is marked in black with a "chop here" placard.
You are right about WJ731, the Canberra B2T. I flew it a couple of times on the OCU in 1976. The nav fit was quite advanced compared to a normal B2. It had, IIRC, a Green Satin (or was it Violet Picture but I don't think so) doppler along with its associated GPI Mark 2. Twin VOR, TACAN and ADF.
Scorp 63. Your memory is the same as mine. There was a long oxygen pipe used for getting around. Of course for non-bombing missions there was no need to be in the bomb aimers position at high level and I only ever did low level ones. I was lucky(?) to be small enough to stand next to the pilot for low level navigation (and I could see exactly what speed/heading he was actually flying). However we used (on 7 Sqn) to practise low level aborts (which the Nav Leader used to call whenever he got lost so he could get a fix!) which meant going to the spare back seat, doing up dinghy and lap straps as a min in prep for banging out. I am not sure we would have survived with that but what was the alternative?
On rangers, the rear cabin would eventually ice up and your carefully prepared chart (ready for marking by the Nav Leader) would get "rained" upon in the descent, ruining it. BTW, cabin pressurisation was standard fifties design. Half the altitude plus 2000 i.e. at 45K, 24,500. The max limit for decompression sickness was 25K (but it can start to set in after 18K)and after long flights, aching shoulders and elbows were common.
There were several incidents of the rear hatch being (inadvertantly) blown off. This led to the guarding of the firing switch which was inexplicably next to the arming switch (so much for design). I also seem to remember experiments with what was known as the "frangible" hatch but never flew with one.
This is all highly interesting stuff, thanks for sharing this everyone. Comments on 'real life' in the cabin show a side to the Canberra that you don't usually read in books. Regarding the 'freeze' side of the bake or freeze equation, what was usually worn on flights in the cooler climes? Did you try and dress for the occasion as it were, or just tough it out with regulation gear and the flying suit?
Scorpion, thanks also for clarifying the knife and use of. Centaurus, many thanks for the full (and brilliantly written) story of the canopy breaker knife trial. Entertaining and informative, cheers for sending it over.
BS Sweeper, I take it by 'rangers' you are referring to Lone Rangers down to Rhodesia before UDI - would love to hear some more about them if possible.
We always wore standard "goon" (i.e. immersion) suits though you could get electrically heated socks. I never bothered as I never fancied anything electrical next to the skin - and you never knew if the ground crew were upset with you! To be honest, the max flight length was about 3.30 (see below) and I never really got cold and with the basic nav gear there was plenty of work to do.
Sorry by "rangers", I did mean Lone Rangers which was a catch all phrase for any long range overseas flight on your own (to anywhere).
I remember trying to brief the duty authoriser (actually the one I "tussled" with) about a particular flight and he just stopped me and said, "I don't care what you do - just stay airborne as long as possible - we need the hours". The pilot and I thought we would experiment with a cruise climb over the Scillies followed by an endurance descent at PLE (Prudent Limit of Endurance) back into SM.On landing, after getting to FL515 and 4.15 hrs, we received another bollowing since the (civilian) ground crew had to stay late to see us in and were getting double pay.
Steve, From my memory of testing the canopy jettison system, the Master s/w armed the system and Jettison s/w fired the canopy bolts. The operation of the rear hatch is a mirror of the canopy system.The operation of the control column explosive bolt was operated by a lever on the left hand consol. During my time on Canberras there was no initiation of the canopy or hatch systems by pulling the ejection seat handles. As stated in previous posts the jettison s/w was a guarded s/w in the control unit. The tip tanks were also jettisoned by explosive bolts.
Many thanks HarvestReaper for the insight. I was under the impression from Pilot's Notes, that provided that the canopy/column snatch master was armed, you could pull the seat handles to jettison the canopy and eject the seat in sequence without having to manually jettison the canopy first. You say this was never SOP during your time -was this because it was safer to blow the canopy off first to ensure proper clearance, then eject?
Served at Cottesmore between 1970 -1972 as an A Tech P, initially on 231 OCU and then 360 Sqn.
One funny story comes to mind after all these years, we had a rigger on the OCU who after meeting one of the local girls (Lay-By Lil from Oakham) at the Thursday night bob in the Flying Fox Club, he decided to take her for some horizontal entertainment in one of the B2’s. After driving out of the camp, he took the back road to the lay-by opposite Pan 20 where there happened to be a B2 parked. They both leap over the fence and he uses his aircraft key to unlock the cockpit door. Once inside, they are lying on the bomb aimer’s cushion in the nose and getting down to business and unknown to them, the snowdrops were doing their nightly drive around the airfield to ensure all was well when they noticed the nose of this aircraft bobbing up and down. The rigger and Lay-By Lil that night got the biggest almighty wake-up call when the snowdrops torch shone through the Perspex nose. A ride back to the guardroom in the Landrover for both of them and he was on a charge in front of the boss several days later and fined 10 Shilling’s.
Another event whilst on 360, was the time one of the aircraft lost its ECM tip tanks, I believe this was due to water dripping through the DV window and shorting out the tip tank jettison switch. The aircraft was in the hangar for ages after this event undergoing investigation.
One more event, two riggers were sent out one night to do a crew swap on a T4, they ended up marshalling one of 115 Sqn’s Argosys into the pan – OC 115 was not a happy bunny. They ended up on tea bar duties and oxy bottles changes for a month.
Steve, As an electrician I cannot tell you what the Sop for the ejection sequene was.See AP4326b pilots notes for B2 etc to clarify the point you mention, unless at the later stages of that mark a mod was brought out to enable jettison through the cockpit canopy, the sequence would have been jettison canopy first. I seem to remember that the rear hatch might have been frangible or at least some of them. May be the Mk 8 & PR 9 systems were configured so that pulling the seat handle jettisoned the canopy.
I took your advice, and dug out my T.4 Pilot's Notes, which read in Part 1, Chapter 10, page 5:
17. Jettisoning in conjunction with the ejection systems. Provided the CANOPY/SNATCH MASTER switch is on, the canopy is automatically jettisoned when either firing handle on either pilot's seat is operated.
The nav cabin hatch was the same according to the notes.
My guess is the other variants are similiar...I have a B.2 and B(I).12 PN somewhere I will double check with.
So, after digging out the B.2 PN, firstly it is somewhat less descriptive on ejecting, but the main difference is it indeed does state the canopy jettison/snatch switch should be pressed first "and then the pilot's seat ejected." It is also stated the navigator must double-fold his table first before following the same procedure (I'd like to hear from some of the former navs on here about that drill). So there does seem to have been a change in notes between the B.2 and the T.4 - I do not have the PR.3 to verify when this happened. Another point worth noting is that my T.4 notes are 4th edition compared to the B.2 2nd edition I have.
On a somewhat related, but morbid note, in the research I have been doing on Argentine usage of the Canberra, it is possible that the navigator of B.62 serial B-108 may have attempted a 'manual' bale out when shot down on the night of the 13th June 1982. When hit by a Sea Dart fired from HMS Cardiff, the impact struck behind the pressurised bulkhead, somewhere below the No.1 fuel tank. The resultant damage apparently caused the failure of the nav's ejection seat, of which he informed his pilot. Cutting this tragic story short for this post, in the end the pilot was forced to eject alone, and the nav seemingly went in with the aircraft. It has recently come to light however from an eyewitness on the UK side who saw it descending in a flat spin, that it appeared to be trailing something burning in the area of the cockpit. I have since wondered whether the poor nav blew the hatch and attempted to bale out but got caught up somehow. I would be interested to hear from those with flat spin experience whether it would have even been possible to extract yourself from the seat against centrifugal force and do this.
Last edited by nazca_steve; 23rd Feb 2012 at 04:07.
I started a thread on the Military Aircrew forum about Slim Pocock's canberra ejection,to see if anybody had any more info/details of this unusual ejection,no luck so far but thought I would link it to here in case anybody on here can help.
Re ejection sequencing - this short paragraph copied from a T4 BOI report...
The Navigator decided to eject as the a/c yawed right and pulled his seat pan firing handle,he then saw the hatch bolts detonate and experienced a normal ejection sequence...
It was not unknown for an experienced canberra nav to 'bang out' without waiting to be ordered so. The very dapper Max M was a staff navigator with 231 OCU - in B2 WJ674 on night assymetric training,on approach into cottesmore the student pilot lost control - and as he felt the a/c roll and buffet... Max told the pilot to eject and then ejected himself. He landed near 'The Fox' on the A1 and popped in for a drink,he had seen the pilots 'chute stream and thought he was safe,however - sadly the pilot did not survive.
Would max have had time to manually blow the hatch and then eject ?? It was a relatively slow ejection sequence on the canberra,and I believe that the nav hatch was blown during certain emergencies for 2 reasons ... (1) [as already mentioned] to aid ground egress...and (2) to make any subsequent ejection faster !
So we know on the T.4 at least you could pull eject via the seat pan handles alone - I would think this would have been implemented as the years went on to other marks but would like to hear from others on what they remember. Speaking of T.4 ejections, I was talking with a US Navy pilot recently who asked me the question if there was any kind of separating rod mechanism to prevent any accidental collision when the pilot and instructor banged out together. He told me on some of their side-by-side trainers that a rod would fire between the seat thus ensuring enough separation that they would not hit each other on ejection. Did the T.4 have that, or was there a delay built in for simultaneous ejections...I would think not as every second counts, right? Frankly I don't know how the front-seaters could ever eject at the same time in a T.4 as the arrangement is pretty damn cramped.
Thanks for posting that link LR, very interesting thread and I am glad you were able to confirm the details you needed.
You appear to be rather out of date on your T4 tech exam. The hatch is not frangible, it is solid, and jettisoned by explosive bolts. This requires no separate action, provided that the hatch safety switch is made live; the hatch is then jettisoned by the intial handle pull. As it departs, it withdraws a restrictor from the seat, allowing the seat gun to fire in sequence as the pull is continued. The pilots canopy is indeed jettisoned, but again this is automatic once the canopy/snatch master switch is set to live (as is firing of the snatch unit to sever and withdraw the control columns).
None of this, of course, tells us anything about thursday's tragic events. However, it is evident from the photographs that:
The Navigator's hatch has jettisoned and the seat has fired (I know - talk about stating the bleedin' obvious).
The pilots' canopy has jettisoned.
Both pilots' seats have fired.
Can't vouch for the snatch unit, but the BoI will know by now.
There is no command ejection system, each takes his turn in sequence by his own actions. It is recommended that the pilots avoid, if possible, simultaneous ejection. Not that you have too much time to worry about the niceties.
Posted to head off more uninformed speculation. Forgive me, but as a former colleague of one of the guys and an acquaintance of the other two, I am finding it difficult to keep my temper. Yes, of course we all want to know - but we are achieving nothing useful here.
There it is: 'There is no command ejection system, each takes his turn in sequence by his own actions. It is recommended that the pilots avoid, if possible, simultaneous ejection. Not that you have too much time to worry about the niceties.'
The thing is - and getting back to the Navs Hatch,I do actually think that originally all the Canberra Nav Hatches had to be manually blown and then the seat handle could be pulled,so the poor nav would have his hands up to the hatch switches and then onto the seat handle. So (like you) I believe that there was a modification carried out on at least some a/c marks to make it a one pull operation,but still able to blow the hatch manually if required. I have not found any references so far but on post 114 of the above link Flown -it writes...
I was posted (appointed) to RAF Waton in late 1966 when we formed 360 out of separate RN and RAF ECM squadrons. We had to wait for the T17s to appear so flew the RAF's T4s and B2s while we waited. 3 RN crew got airborne on pilot training one evening and the pilots got the engine failure somewhat wrong. The nav ejected but it is thought tried to beat the system and was killed. How and why? Well, the canopy was ejected by a switch on the left side wall which was wire locked and gated. The cover had to lifted away from the switch before it could be moved up to fire the canopy. A TWO handed operation. Then you could fire the seat. When first introduced to the setup we tried to work out ways to do it one handed and it is thought that the nav (observer RN) may have tried to do just that. If so the canopy may not have fired (or cleared the plane I don't recall exactly) prior to his seat firing. His death I believe created a redesign of the system and the nav and others through the years may well owe their lives to someone loosing his.
Which is the only reference I have found so far to a possible mod on the nav escape system ! (for Canopy - read Hatch)
Of course they also tried a 'Frangible' hatch as well ...this copied from 'Flight' 1956,but this also was not without problems and I do not think lasted very long (cannot remember why)...
Canberra Navigators' Ejection To improve the emergency escape facilities of the English Elec-
tric Canberra B.2, a frangible Fibreglass hatch to replace the metal unit now fitted over the navigator's compartment has been designed by the Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., Ltd. At the same time the company has developed from the existing Canberra seats a new fully-automatic ejection seat fitted with a duplex drogue, an 83ft/sec telescopic ejection-gun, arm-rests, and a secondary firing handle on the front of the seat pan. Thus equipped, the navigator should be able to fire himself through the frangible hatch and descend safely from almost any altitude. Canberras at present have the Mk 1 non-automatic seat, and parachutes carry barometric rip-cord release devices. It has been found by experience that, without the explosive hood-jettisoning gear linked to the seat-ejection mechanism, it is preferable to eject through a canopy rather than to jettison it first. The crew member is thus protected from air blast while he is reaching for the firing handle, and a number of pre-ejection actions, with their associated delays, are eliminated. When g forces are operating on the aircraft, as may well be the case in an emergency,, any pre-ejection action may become excessively difficult andv precious time be lost. It is not, in any case, necessary for a good ejection that the canopy should come away cleanly. Following a series of successful test ejections, on static rigs and in the air, a demonstration in the presence of Service representatives was given at Chalgrove airfield on January 19th. A
"standard dummy man," using the fully-automatic seat described above, was ejected through the new frangible hatch from a Service Canberra flying at about 300 kt at 400ft. The aircraft was piloted by Capt. J. E. D. Scott, the company's chief test pilot. The test is stated to have been successful in showing the practicability of ejection through the new Fibreglass navigator's hatch, and also in demonstrating the advantages of the procedure. Both the Fibreglass hatch and the new ejection seat have been designed to be easily and economically fitted as a retrospective modification
This is extremely interesting, LR. I have seen photos of Rhodesian Canberras with a white-painted nav hatch, to which I think might have been one of these frangible hatches. Not sure however if this was the case, but will check with Mike Hamence on it. Again, as has been pointed out several times on here, this the beauty of the Can as such a long-serving old girl - no two are the same, and even if this mod was introduced as Flight points out in 1956, we don't know yet how standard this mod became. At least a lot of photos point to the hatch continuing to be blown clear off for the SOP reasons previously mentioned.
Blasting through a canopy mind you must be one hell of an experience...not necessarily one I would relish, but then again, the alternative would make you not think twice about it.